First, I’d like to give a shoutout to my ladies for posting these pictures to our Facebook page for me to lift.
I’ve been kinda putting off the recap for the Iron Horse Half Marathon because I really don’t know how to talk about the race. It has been almost a week and I still tear up flipping through the pictures. It was an amazing day. It was the proudest I’ve ever felt to be a part of the running community.
I had mixed emotions going into this race. I started having problems with my foot earlier that week, so I decided that it was in my best long-term interest to sit this one out. I’ve trained for so long with so many friends. There were lots of our ladies who were running their first half marathons. Brenna had come all the way from Kansas. I wanted to run. But I couldn’t.
When our alarm went off at 5:30, my initial thought was of the volunteers. Our water station and all the other volunteers were already at the race site. I hoped they weren’t cold or swept away by wind. Seems like they had a pretty good time. You can read Lydia’s volunteer experience here.
(thanks Jitana for the picture of our LRL water station!)
The first surprise of the day was our meeting spot. Debra had arranged for us to use the Midway Women’s Club Clubhouse as a congregating spot. Temperature controlled. Indoor plumbing. Coffee. It was just the best. We took our group picture and then headed down to the start line.
The weather could not have been better. Slightly cool. A little windy. Absolute perfect running weather.
I forgot what a beacon the Big Hand is. I gave lots of hugs around the start line. The start of the race seemed to happen pretty quickly. Toa, Steve, and I found a good cheering spot a little ahead of the start line and the runners were off. I got a few high fives here and then we headed off to a cheering spot.
We hadn’t been cheering all that long when I realized that this cheering business is hard work. My ears were ringing from Toa’s awesome cow bell, my throat hurt from screaming, my thighs were definitely feeling the almost-constant jumping, and my hands were sore from the Big Hand. (I have to invest in a comfort handle for that thing.) It was a great morning. I got a zillion high fives. Some soft, some middle-of-the-ground smacks, and some football-type hits. I got to the point that I was taking time to really plant myself when there was an especially aggressive look to a runner. It was just awesome.
When we thought it was getting close to time for some of our people to reach the finish line, we headed back in that direction. The finish line was moved a street over and ended on a flat straight-stretch. Lined by trees on both sides. We found a spot a little ahead of the finish and continued to yell. I have never been prouder. Nathan had a new PR and he came in bearing news of everyone he had seen on his way back in. Amber and Dan weren’t far behind, neither were Kelly and Brooke. Jamie looked solid. Katie was with Laurie. Brenna was close to them. Ann looked solid. Katie and LaTanya had split up. He told us about “our” water station. I knew everyone was okay. And that calmed my worrying heart.
Nathan joined our little cheering group and we cheered everyone in. People we knew and people we didn’t. Eric came up with us and cheered like nothing I’ve ever heard. PRs were blown out of the water.
And everyone finished with a smile. Except for Brooke. I mean, seriously, she had us all in tears (even Nathan and Dan, I think). And I’m not even sure exactly why we were crying. But she made the ugly cry face and we all just followed. It was a great moment.
We cheered our first-timers extra loud. Took pictures making the Team Shark pose. I jumped and yelled and hugged and celebrated and gave high fives like mad. I watched friends go back out on the course and run other friends in. Pictures. Tears. Hugs. Repeat. (Oh, and we crammed a banana in Jaime’s face when she started looking a little paler than usual. That was scary.)
But then we noticed that the crowd was definitely getting smaller. When Casey started coming down the homestretch, someone yelled “HUMAN TUNNEL” and that’s what we did for the rest of the runners. Cue more crying. We cheered in everyone – runners, course marshals, and the sweeper with the blinking red light in her hair.
It didn’t matter that there wasn’t any food left. It didn’t matter that the food tables had been completely put away. It mattered to us that everyone – EVERYONE – that came across that finish line knew they had accomplished something amazing.
Because they had accomplished something amazing. Thirteen point one miles. Hilly miles. Tired miles. Amazing miles.
Congratulations, friends. If you were there that day in any capacity – runner, volunteer, cheerer, photographer – I only hope your experience was as moving as mine.
I am blessed to be a runner. Blessed. Even if – maybe even especially when – I’m on the sidelines.
Thanks, friends, for making my heart grow three sizes that day. You are my favorites.